Through Ulaan Bataar to Khogno Khan Uul, Mongolia Week 18 21st - 23rd August 2011
Thanks for all the comments and encouragement with the blog. Certainly helps.

Did we mention previously that we don't really enjoy cities.

Ulaan Bataar is a city.

Having camped an hour or so's drive South of the city we set off Northwards the next morning

With a few signs of cultivation along the road.

It occurred to us that not only have we seen no flowing rivers since the border we also haven't seen very much grass.

Vegetation yes. But little grass.

Ulaan Bataar looks like a city.

We seem to have accidents while parking.

Today's accident was to be parked outside a Mobicom office. Complete with very nice English speaking person.

We purchased a (rather expensive by Aus standards) sim card for the phone/internet.

We also tried an ATM, which worked.

Found the map shop which was a disappointment (though perhaps that was because we didn't want "inch to the mile" maps).

Checked that we didn't need border permits for traveling to the North West of Mongolia. We'd been confused by two places with the same name.

Failed to find any maps of Russia (though we have gps).

And headed out of town. Though a bit sad we missed the museum.

We passed the railway station on the way out.

Then made a 20 km detour while we looked for road signs and asked directions.

We finally returned to one of the few roundabouts and took a different turn.

The roads around the capital were rough. Very rough.

One of the people who gave us directions was concerned about our height.

These pipes leading from the power station to the city were why. But they were high enough (or we were low enough).

The road was a bit rough, the new one is still being surfaced.

The pipes are for Combined Heat and Power from the power station. Looked like a lot thicker insulation than was needed in China. Ulaan Bataar is about the world's coldest capital city - average temperature 0 degrees C.

About 30 km out of Ulaan Bataar we noticed the familiar, but unexpected, shape of a motorhome in the mirror.

Pulled over and had a chat to Jacques and Florence Sans with their three children. Swiss, waiting for Chinese visas in Ulaan Bataar taking a small outing.

They were headed to a spot where they could easily see native Mongolian horses.

We were headed further West towards Karakoram (Karkoram). Chenggis Khan's capital, but there's hardly any of that bit left.

We think wheat growing.

We've also seen a couple of harvesters.

We found a spot off the side of the road and settled in for the night.
On reflection, all the countries we have visited really do have their very own, very different characteristics.

We knew that, but experiencing it is mostly what the trip is about.

We are enjoying Mongolia. We think perhaps the lack of fences has something to do with the enjoyment.

In some intellectual way perhaps the lack of physical fences is associated with a lack of mental fences.

Initially we were uncertain about making use of the freedom, but we are overcoming that self imposed fence.

Just after Lun we stopped by the river.

The white bird in the middle is a spoonbill.

Not sure about the others. Even through binoculars.

Couldn't resist a photo of these two goats.
We did some washing, had showers, and filled the water tanks. Included an extra bit of chlorine, just in case!

Its hard to escape power wires sometimes.

We are on the old road, there's no bridge just in front of us, but wires don't need bridges. 

And the wires have their uses.

A swallow or swift.

And of course the usual ger.

Despite the low population we are rarely alone.

And a few children passed by on the way to their swimming hole.

After a couple of hours and an early lunch we set off again.

Waved to these two cyclists - yessssss they waved back, very enthusiastically.

Further on a few more birds.

After a famine on wildlife Mongolia is a bit of a feast.

We stopped to ask directions to Khogno Khan Uul Nature Reserve. Yes, most of the gers we've seen have solar and satellite.

Ali understood that if we waited while a couple of people finished their meal they would drive their car there and we could follow.

I had much more important things to do, like providing a tyre inflation service to a truck with a couple of almost flat rear tyres. All done by sign language and smiles.

I got the hang of it when the truck pulled up beside us and the driver made like he was using a hand pump. I showed him our compressor with air hose. Instant smile, and we went from there.

Aren't world standards good when they work - the double ended chuck for our air hose worked on his dual wheels (inner rears can be terrible things to inflate).

We followed the car over some fairly soft sand and a couple of river crossings.

Not soft enough for 4wd though, just had to change down a gear in one place.

On the right is a ger camp for tourists. There seem to be quite a few around.

We are just East of the Mongol Els, an area of dunes in the middle of the country.

Looks like its been commercialised a bit, with camel rides, etc. Its the area that's photographed on the front cover of Lonely Planet. I wonder which came first.

Our guide left us, after selling us a few small water colour paintings. We aren't into souvenirs but these seemed to capture the atmosphere as well as being a way of saying thanks. Overpriced of course.

The track led into the valley where there is a small temple, some monastery ruins, and a nature reserve.

We camped on the flat ground below the temple.

Hung out the washing that we'd done earlier in the day.

Had a look at the temple and had a chat to some Italian tourists.

And watched the marmots watching us.
As well as tripping over the frogs. Or toads. How does one tell the difference?

They were everywhere, despite it being sandy and no water.

Though we did find a creek the next day.

Don't get too excited.

This is the flower of a thistle.

We walked a couple of km NE from our campsite.

We are headed to a ruined monastery.

Destroyed in someone's purge in the 17th century.

This photo is looking back. Tardis almost visible about the center of the photo.

The rock is all coarse granite.

One of the walls of the ruined monastery.

An interesting (to me) mixture of large stones, then small stones to give a flattish surface for the next layer of large stones.

Some of the small stones looked a bit like shale.

Earth fill between the outer stones.

There's more ways of building stone walls than I've had hot dinners.

And the second storey was made with bricks.

Also earth filled.

A few interesting plants. The sort that like dry places.
There were also some ruins that had been made of mud.

We aren't sure where the mud came from as most of what we walked on was sand from the granite.

We walked a bit further to the top of this saddle.

Lots of animal tracks to follow, and a few cairns and the odd ovoo.

Looking back at the monastery ruins.

It was a large monastery.

We also spotted a Tar on the skyline opposite.

Ok with naked eye, much better with the binoculars, terrible with the camera - it saw us and moved on.

From the saddle looking South.

The main road is about 15 km away in the big valley.

Valleys still seem to be very wide, shallow, affairs.

A bit more of the ruins as we started back to Tardis.
Near the tardis was this machine.

We think a concrete block making machine.

A sort of combined press and shaker with a complicated mould.

The drive belt on it looked quite new, but no motor.

We'd been hearing and seeing these birds for quite a while.

Last evening they flew away whenever we got close (as they do).

This was one of two that simply ignored us.

There are some monks associated with the temple. Looks like they keep some animals and have a veggie garden.

This is a very deep pile of droppings. Dug over and drying. Possibly fuel for winter.

The animals are probably eating somewhere in the valley.

Maybe kept here over Winter.

These people, from further West, were visiting the temple and stopped at our "mobile ger" to say hello.

They were interested in Tardis.

They looked impressed with the light switches, running water, and particularly the heater. Maybe they were trying to tell us something! 

The two younger ladies knew a bit of English.

We supplied the coffee, they provided the bread and, we think, butter.

The butter was in a plastic fridge container, not a commercial package.

It tasted good.

Not sure about the effect on cholesterol but I'm sure it won't matter just this once ......

Everyone had some. These two pieces were extras for us to eat when everyone else had left. We must look undernourished!

Its taken us a few days to begin to settle in to Mongolia. Its so very different. But we think we are beginning to get the hang of it.

We'd had a couple of light showers early in the morning but it had cleared up.

Not too long after our visitors left it started raining. Not particularly heavy, just persistent. Impossible to photograph though.

It continued overnight and next morning.

Temperature at 8 am is about 13 degrees C.

Not cold enough to break out the down jackets, or turn the heater on, but the wind on the rain is decidedly chilly while collecting water.

And the marmots are hiding.

Forecast at Karkoram is for low 20's tomorrow.

Karkorum and Khar Balgas, Mongolia Week 18 24th - 25th August 2011

Sharon Sat, 27 Aug 11 11:38:56 +1000
It was most likely a toad.

Just so you know the difference between frogs and toads is:-

Frogs: Need to live near water; Have smooth, moist skin that makes them look “slimy”; Have a narrow body; Have higher, rounder, bulgier eyes; Have longer hind legs; Take long high jumps and Have many predators

Toads: Do not need to live near water to survive; Have rough, dry, bumpy skin; Have a wider body; Have lower, football shaped eyes; Have shorter, less powerful hind legs (for walking instead of hopping); Will run or take small hops rather than jump; Do not have many predators; Toad’s skin lets out a bitter taste and smell that burns the eyes and nostrils of its predators, much like a skunk does.

Hope this helps

Laurie Sat, 27 Aug 11 17:53:53 +1000
I wish I could give you all the translation of the intrepid Swiss people's blog. One part of it is a long, long list of all the things that have gone wrong with Droopy (the old 4x4 Merc) and in which country. These people must be very persistent to have soldiered on with the 3 small kids through 18 countries (so far.) Everything has happened: the heater never made it past Poland and had to replaced, blown tires on icy roads and on-icy, gear box blows up, everything mechanical under the bonnet that can go wrong has, broken windows, a multi-vehicle crash in Bulgaria... and the list goes on. What about Tadjikistan, where they sank into the sand and the tractor that pulled them out broke the radiator and twisted the bumper?

Following all these travel blogs is so interesting from afar!

Sorry, comments closed.